Jr. Chiefs flex muscles and eliminate the Red Wings, 14-7
GENEVA, N.Y. – So much for momentum and any theories of inertia. The Geneva Red Wings came into the New York Collegiate Baseball League Eastern Division finals with a full head of steam after winning three straight in rousing fashion.
That streak came to a screeching halt at McDonough Park.
Frank Salerno (St. Thomas Aquinas) led a 20-hit attack as the first-place Jr. Chiefs proved their standing with a 14-7 thumping of Geneva to advance to the NYCBL Championship.
Zach Blanden (Binghamton) highlighted a six-run second with a three-run home run as the Jr. Chiefs took a lead they never relinquished.
“Everyone gets up there and knows what they have to do,” said Syracuse head coach, Casey Scott. “One through nine, no matter who we plug in there, it’s been working. They play very good situational baseball without us having to harp on them. It’s all about getting it to the next guy.”
And get it to the next guy they did indeed.
Corey Caswell (Ithaca) led the second with a single through the hole at shortstop. Riley Moonan (Fairleigh Dickinson) followed with a double in the right center field gap. Caswell scored as Ryan Sonberg (Bates) reached when the throw from the left side of the infield pulled the foot of Brad Blumer (Cameron) at first. A passed ball moved the runners to second and third, and David Wolak (Elmhurst) plated Moonan with a single to center. Blanden connected to right center to clear the bases. Salerno capped the scoring as he singled, stole a pair of bases before coming home on an error.
“They can swing it; they really can,” commented Geneva coach, Dave Herbst. “We’re young, but they got some good hitters.”
Syracuse scored a run in the third, two in the fourth, another in the fifth before putting the game out reach with three in the sixth.
Sonberg started the sixth with a walk off Geneva reliever, Corey Finkler (Toledo). One out later, Blanden singled. A passed ball tipped off the glove of Joe Blair (Mid-Continent), and the runners advanced. Salerno blooped a hit into left field scoring Sonberg. Tim Locastro (Ithaca) delivered Blanden with a sacrifice fly. Meanwhile Salerno moved up twice on defensive indifference and scored on a wild pitch for 13-6 advantage.
“They’re not always looking to take the credit,” Scott said of his lineup. “They’re willing to pass it on to the next guy. We find a way to get things done.”
Salerno led all with four hits. He also scored twice.
“Frank since day one has been a catalyst,” Scott noted. “With this offense, he gets on base and things happen. That’s only because we got guys behind him who did little things – get him over and drive him in.”
The Wings scored two runs in the second and third to close the gap at 7-5.
Beau Hauser (Dickinson) started the stanza with a base on balls. Hauser moved to second on a balk. He scored when Cameron Stimpson (Monroe CC) rushed the throw from second on a check swing ground ball. When the ball went to the fence along the right field line, Hauser crossed the dish, and the speedy Stimpson scampered into second. Jesse Puscheck (Canisius) drove in Stimpson with a base hit to right.
Blumer led the third and took a pitch in the side from Jr. Chief reliever, Robert Frank (St. Thomas Aquinas). Blair moved the runner with a sacrifice bunt, and Blumer came around on a pair of wild pitches. Cameron Stimpson restarted the rally with hit to right and scored from first when his brother, Leon Stimpson (Alvernia), drilled a shot to left that bounded over Blanden’s head for a triple.
Geneva looked primed to add another when Ricky Moses II (Southern) lashed a shot to the right side of the infield, but Salerno, playing second, ranged to his left and went to his knees to corral the ball and end the threat.
“Frank’s been huge for us,” Scott added. “He’s going to continue to beif we plan on winning this thing.”
Geneva trailed 7-5 but would not get any closer.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Herbst said. “They battled, and we got to the East Divisional Finals. We want to go one step further, but we fell short.”
Geneva added single runs in the fifth and eighth. The Wings left two on in the eighth. After falling into last place late in the season, the Wings recovered and scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth last Wednesday to clinch the playoffs. They promptly went on to sweep the East Division Semi-finals from the second-place Adirondack Trail Blazers.
“Geneva has always been one of the powerhouse teams,” Scott explained. “They’re very-well coached, a very well-run organization. They always seem to have good players. They’re a very good team. Their record might not have shown it. They played us tough every game this year.”
Moonan and Sonberg had three hits apiece for the Jr. Chiefs. Zach Lauricella (St. John’s) also chipped in three hits for the winners.
Peter Doggett (Misericordia) pitched three innings for the win.
Leon Stimpson paced Geneva with a pair of hits.
Grant Heyman (Miami) walked four times for the Red Wings. After receiving just five bases on balls in his first 18 games, the 11th round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays was walked eight times in the his final four contests. Heyman connected for eight home runs in his first 61 at bats with Geneva.
Syracuse advances to play the winner of the Geneva Twins-Niagara Power series. Game times and locations will be announced.